Katmai National Park is truly one of a kind and a national treasure! No where else will you be able to see as many bears, as closely, and as safely as at Katmai. And as far as I'm concerned staying in Brooks Camp is the only way to do it. The lodge is overpriced and not worth the hassle. We camped July 18-20 and the salmon run was at its peak. We paid only $16/nt vs over $700 for the lodge. And you need that extra money because flying to Brooks Camp isn't cheap for anyone. That being said it was one of the best travel investments we ever made.
About the bears:
We saw bears everywhere! As many as 8-10 at a time at the falls but also encountered them on the lake and on the trails between camp and the falls themselves. We also were fortunate to see a sow and three spring cubs. We stayed in Alaska for two weeks and this was easily the highlight of our entire trip. Never felt in any danger around the bears. There is a pervasive ranger presence keeping bears and humans at a safe distance from each other and there's so many fish to eat that the bears could really care less about the people. After you arrive you are immediately put through a bear orientation session where you learn the basics about bear-human interaction and how to stay safe.
About the Campground:
The campground sits right on the shore of Lake Naknek about a 1/4mi from the Lodge and the beach where most of the floatplanes land so best to pack your gear in a backpack or other easily portable device. As others have mentioned the campground is surrounded by an electric fence. There are well-ventilated pit toilets and a food-locker/gear cache to keep everyone safe. Campsites are well-spaced out with a reasonable amount of cover. We camped nearest to the beach and had a lovely view of the lake from our tent. Mosquitos are thick here as everywhere in Alaska so be sure to bring headnets and bugspray. We later camped at Wonder Lake and actually found the bugs to be thicker at Brooks Camp than in Denali! That may have been just our experience though. We reserved our spot online the first day reservations open for the season in early December. You can get more details for 2013 on the NPS website. Would definitely recommend reserving early to guarantee your spot.
About the transportation:
We traveled to King Salmon from Anchorage via Alaska Airlines and then to Brooks Camp with Katmai air. This made the most sense for us since we were coming from Anchorage and Katmai was the first destination in our trip. The downside to this is missing out on some scenery flying from Anchorage at commercial altitudes and trying to make connections in King Salmon. You basically have no guaranteed flight-times with Katmai Air. They weigh you and your stuff and figure out how to get all the people and things to Brooks in the fewest number of flights possible. This might mean you get off your plane in King Salmon and straight onto your floatplane to Katmai or it might mean you wait an hour or more while other people get shuttled there first. Would plan on spending a couple of nights at Brooks either way so you aren't stressing if you get into camp later or have to leave earlier than you originally intended. If you can book directly through a private float-plane operator like Rust's that would be ideal but many won't take you all the way from Anchorage and given it was our first trip to Alaska we preferred the safety of booking online through a commercial airline to calling a private service we'd never heard of.
A few tips:
The lodge doesn't restrict it's amenities from the campers. You can enjoy the lobby with large indoor firepit for free. You can also use their public flush toilets if you get tired of the pit toilets at the campground. Showers are available for a fee. And you can enjoy drinks from the bar or meals from the cafeteria for exactly the same price as lodge guests.
If you're travelling to Alaska and trying to decide whether visiting Katmai is worth it, the answer is "Definitely yes!" But you can save yourself some money staying at the campground and make sure you give yourself a few days to really take it all in. You won't regret it!
- Also Known As:
- Brooks Camp Hotel Katmai National Park And Preserve
- Brooks Camp Alaska/Katmai National Park And Preserve